by Sangeeta Haindl — The issue of pay and gender equality is high on the international news agenda. Actress Robin Wright recently demanded to be paid the same as co-star Kevin Spacey for her work on Netflix’ hit series, ‘House of Cards’. Wright joins a growing group of women in Hollywood who are becoming more vocal on the issue of equal pay. Last year, Jennifer Lawrence drew widespread attention for speaking up about making less than her male costars on the film, American Hustle; since then she’s been a forceful advocate for pay equity.
In Britain, positive strides are being made as reporting on gender pay gaps is to become compulsory this October for private sector and voluntary organisations employing 250 or more under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015. The rules will also to be rolled out to the public sector at some point. The U.K. government issued a consultation in 2015, on ‘Closing the gender pay gap’; this February a second consultation was issued, ‘Mandatory gender pay gap reporting’. These actions have now made many organisations put equality in gender pay high on their human resource agenda. A recent U.K. survey by Paydata reveals that 67 percent of respondents had prioritised equal pay audits for the coming 12 months; a significant shift, when compared with earlier editions of this survey.
In 2014, there were just over 40 percent of organisations who were looking to conduct an equal pay audit, while in 2012, it was only 25 per cent. The government’s focus on compulsory gender pay reporting is designed to enforce increased transparency, ultimately encouraging employers to close this pay gap. The latest Office for National Statistics annual survey, Hours and Earnings, highlights that while differences in pay between men and women are moving in the right direction, a gap still exists, standing at 9.4 percent. Ignoring gender pay equality could result in a company facing some tough questions with potentially significant financial damage from tribunals, the disclosure of sensitive data to reputation damage and negative publicity for employers who are exposed as unequal payers.
It makes business sense for organisations to embrace gender equality, as apart from being viewed more favourably by communities, customers, staff and suppliers, an employer is more likely to attract people from a wider pool of talent. It also enhances employee engagement, as staff are more likely to perform well, feel motivated and committed. Gender equality helps to strengthen staff retention, as people feel valued and respected in their working environment. Tellingly, it also wins new business, as UK public bodies are increasingly awarding contracts to private companies and third-sector organisations if they are known for treating their staff fairly.
Women don’t choose to earn less. Despite the gains made over recent years, women remain overrepresented among low-wage workers. Hopefully, change is now finally afoot, where pay and gender equality will no longer be a debate, but an employer’s moral duty.
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